Saturday, January 21, 2012

On Sadness and Other Topics

I am reminded of The Prophet who prepares to leave and people gather around him, ask him to address the issues of human condition. Anyway, here is something on human condition.

  • What of sadness? In Congo, they have delestage (literally power cut, in french): Older children eat today, young one tomorrow, some days all children eat and no adults, some days only adults. "If today we eat, tomorrow we'll drink tea".
  • What of struggle? Children in the picture cross the Ciberang River clinging to the remaining side of a collapsed bridge to get to their school.
  • What of love? I am reminded of an old quote, "Love is the moment when a man who needs shave becomes the man with a beard." Let me add, "And Love is also the moment when a man with a beard becomes the man who needs a shave".

4 Comments:

Anonymous Claire Mathieu said...

I was struck by your post and kept going back to it until I decided to enquire further.

The bridge is a temporary situation:
http://blogs.reuters.com/photographers-blog/2012/01/23/risking-life-for-school/

As to the Congolese delestage described in the New York times article, finding it hard to believe, I searched the French web and got
1) A comedy
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUEYAZCfB50
2) A cartoon
http://congoblog.net/delestage-alimentaire-dans-les-menages-kinois/
3) A report on the food situation, mentioning the anecdotal but preoccupying appearance of "food delestage".
http://www.rtfn-watch.org/uploads/media/Etat_des_lieux_RDC.pdf
"Pour ce qui est du nombre de repas consommés par jour, il convient de signaler que la population congolaise ne mange pas à sa faim et que son régime alimentaire n’est pas équilibré. Selon l’UNICEF, 27% des ménages ne consomment qu’un seul repas par jour et 59% en consomment deux. La majorité de la population, soit 86%, prennent ainsi moins de trois repas par jour.
Un phénomène qu’on appelle vulgairement « délestage alimentaire » a également été observé. Il s’agit d’une pratique consistant à manger par intervalle d’un à deux jours par semaine. Cette situation est plus préoccupante dans les communes du district de Tshangu à Kinshasa : Masina, Kimbanseke, N’sele et Maluku et l’une des communes du district de Mont Amba (Kisenso) qui sont des communes à prédominance rurale où la vulnérabilité est extrême."

That's not to deny the stark reality faced by people in rural Indonesia, rural Congo and elsewhere, but the two examples you highlighted are instances illustrating the chronic vulnerability of the population there, but those particular examples, even there, are not the routine but the exception.

7:13 AM  
Blogger metoo said...

Dear Claire,

The post remained on my mind for several days, I am really glad you followed up. Here are my thoughts, not clear they address any underyling issues.

* When I read the article about the students crossing the river, I was reminded of a village far away that I visited a few years ago. Due to heavy rains, a crucial bridge had collapsed. The village was in a state of confusion and disinformation. People offered made up solutions to cross the river. State, private buses, scooters and bullock carts, each found their own way, milk delivery men on bicycles found their way, and so did stray dogs. People found new places to wash clothes, other places to burn or bury corpses, ... And kids found a way to school, so did teachers, all with red mud on their clothes. That picture in the blog is only a moment and moments tend to get replaced by others, but it triggered memories and made me realize that on either side of the bridge, lives were probably finding a new way.

* I translated (thanks to G) the passage as:
"Regarding the number of meals consumed per day, it should be noted that the Congolese population does not eat his fill and that his diet is not balanced. According to UNICEF, 27% of households consume only one meal a day and 59% use both. The majority of the population, 86%, and take less than three meals a day.
A phenomenon commonly called "downloading" Food was also observed. This is a practice of eating at intervals of one to two days a week. This is more common concern in the District of Tshangu in Kinshasa Masina, Kimbanseke N'sele and Maluku and one of the municipalities in the district of Mont Amba (Kisenso) which are predominantly rural communes where vulnerability is extreme."

My thoughts when I read the NY times article was that the poor find a way to talk about their state of life ("power cut"). And on any given day, they starve, but the following day, there is a wedding or child birth in the neighborhood, and people have to rejoice. And then someone dies in a car/factory accident and the community has to grieve. I dont know what is routine and what is an exception.

-- Metoo

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